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Great Singers, Second Series / Malibran To Titiens By George T. Ferris Characters: 8290

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:03


After an operatic campaign in Dresden, in the highest degree pleasant to herself and satisfactory to the public, in which she sang, in addition to Vielka, the parts of Norma, Amina, and Maria in "La Figlia del Reggimento," Jenny Lind returned to Stockholm to take part in the coronation of the King of Sweden. Her fame spread throughout the musical world with signal swiftness, and offers came pouring in on her from London, Paris, Florence, Milan, and Naples. This northern songstress was becoming a world's wonder, not because people had heard, but because the few carried far and wide such wonderful reports of her genius. Her tour in the summer of 1844 through the cities of Scandinavia and Germany was almost like the progress of a royal personage, to which events had attached some special splendor. Costly gifts were lavished on her, her journeys through the streets were besieged by thousands of admiring followers, her society was sought by the most distinguished people in the land. The Countess of Rossi (Henrietta Sontag) paid her the tribute of calling her "the first singer of the world." After a five months' engagement in Berlin, the Swedish singer made her début in "Norma," at Vienna, on April 22, 1845. The Lind enthusiasm had been rising to fever heat from the first announcement of her coming, and the prices of admission had been doubled, much to the discomfort of poor Jenny Lind, who feared that the over-wrought anticipation of the public would be disappointed. But when she ascended the steps of the Druid altar and began to sing, then the storm of applause which interrupted the opera for several minutes decided the question unmistakably.

After a brief return to her native city, she reappeared in Berlin, which had a special claim on her regard, for it was there that her genius had been first fully recognized and trumpeted forth in tones which rang through the civilized world. She again received a liberal offer from England, this time from Mr. Bunn, of the Drury Lane Theatre, and an agreement was signed, with the names of Lord Westmoreland, the British minister, and Meyerbeer as witnesses. The singer, however, was not altogether satisfied with the contract, a feeling which increased when she again was approached by Mr. Lumley's agent. There were many strong personal and professional reasons why she preferred to sing under Mr. Lumley's management, and the result was that she wrote to Mr. Bunn, asking to break the contract, and offering to pay two thousand pounds forfeit. This was refused, and the matter went into the courts afterward, resulting in twenty-five hundred pounds damages awarded to the disappointed manager.

Berlin enthusiasm ran so high that the manager was compelled to reengage her at the rate of four thousand pounds per year, with two months' congé. The difficulty of gaining admission into the theatre, even when she had appeared upward of a hundred nights, was so great, that it was found necessary, in order to prevent the practice of jobbing in tickets, which was becoming very prevalent, to issue them according to the following directions, which were put forth by the manager: "Tickets must be applied for on the day preceding that for which they are required, by letter, signed with the applicant's proper and Christian name, profession, and place of abode, and sealed with wax, bearing the writer's initials with his arms. No more than one ticket can be granted to the same person; and no person is entitled to apply for two consecutive nights of the enchantress's performance." Her reputation and the public admiration swelled month by month. Mendelssohn engaged her for the musical festival at Aix-La-Chapelle, where he was the conductor, and was so delighted with her singing that he said, "There will not be born in a whole century another being so largely gifted as Jenny Lind." The Emperor of Russia offered her fifty-six thousand francs a month for five months (fifty-six thousand dollars), a sum then rarely equaled in musical annals.

The correspondent of the "London Athenaeum" gave an interesting sketch of the feeling she created in Frankfort:

"Dine whe

re you would, you heard of Jenny Lind, when she was coming, what she would sing, how much she was to be paid, who had got places, and the like; so that, what with the exigeant English dilettanti flying at puzzled German landlords with all manner of Babylonish protestations of disappointment and uncertainty, and native High Ponderosities ready to trot in the train of the enchantress where she might please to lead, with here and there a dark-browed Italian prima donna lowering, Medea-like, in the background, and looking daggers whenever the name of 'Questa Linda!' was uttered-nothing, I repeat, can be compared to the universal excitement, save certain passages ('green spots' in the memory of many a dowager Berliner) when enthusiasts rushed to drink Champagne out of Sontag's shoe.... In 'La Figlia del Reggimento,' compared with the exhibitions of her sister songstresses now on the German stage, Mlle. Lind's personation was like a piece of porcelain beside tawdry daubings on crockery."

Jenny Lind's last appearance in Vienna before departing for England was again a lighted match set to a mass of tinder, it raised such a commotion in that music-loving city. The imperial family paid her the most marked attention, and the people were inclined to go to any extravagances to show their admiration. During these performances, the stalls, which were ordinarily two florins, rose to fifty, and sometimes there would be thousands of people unable to secure admission. On the last night, after such a scene as had rarely been witnessed in any opera-house, the audience joined the immense throng which escorted her carriage home. Thirty times they summoned her to the window with cries which would not be ignored, shouting, "Jenny Lind, say you will come back again to us!" The tender heart of the Swedish singer was so affected that she stood sobbing like a child at the window, and threw flowers from the mass of bouquets piled on her table to her frenzied admirers, who eagerly snatched them and carried them home as treasures.

On her departure from Stockholm for London, the demonstration was most affecting, and showed how deep the love of their great singer was rooted in the hearts of the Swedes. Twenty thousand people assembled on the quay, military bands had been stationed at intervals on the route, and her progress through the streets was like that of a queen. She embarked amid cheers, music, and tears, and, as she sailed out of the harbor, the rigging of the vessels was decorated with flags, and manned, while the artillery from the war vessels thundered salutes. All this sounds like exaggeration to us now, but those who remember the enthusiasm kindled by Jenny Lind in America can well believe the accounts of the feeling called out by the "Swedish Nightingale" everywhere she went in Europe.

When Mlle. Lind arrived in London, she was received by her friend Mrs. Grote, wife of the great historian, and for several weeks was her guest, the most distinguished men and women calling to pay their respects to the gifted singer. She secluded herself, however, as much as possible from general society, and it may be said, during the larger part of her London engagement, lived in seclusion, much to the disgust of the social celebrities who were eager to lionize her. Lablache, the basso, was one of the first to hear Jenny sing. His pleasant criticism, "Every note was like a perfect pearl," got to her ears. The na?ve and charming jest by which she made her acknowledgment is quite worth the repeating. Stepping to the side of Lablache one morning at rehearsal, she made a courtesy, and borrowed his hat from the smiling basso. She then placed her lips to the edge and sang into its capacious depths a beautiful French romance. At the conclusion of the song, she ordered Lablache, who was bewildered by this fantastic performance, to kneel before her, as she had a valuable present for him, declaring that on his own showing she was giving him a hatful of "pearls." Lablache was so delighted by this simple and innocent gayety that he avowed he could not be more pleased if she had given him a hatful of diamonds.

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